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Monday, April 7, 2014

Happy from St Kilda...

I just love this quirky little video made in my old stomping ground, St Kilda. I spent my first grown-up decade in St Kilda and I loved every minute of it. The faded mansions, kugelhopfs and cakes as far as the eye could see, the beach, the gardens, Luna Park, the bands at the Espy and The Prince, the often scary night life - I still miss it. I left before I was really ready and it still features prominently in my dreams. St Kilda is often seen as a fairly cool place but anywhere can be cool. It takes a certain kind of community spirit to pull off this sort of quirky daggy!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Rushing past my window...


Every day I see these same scenes rushing past my window. For some reason I am drawn to this side of the track rather than the other side. If I'm not reading I watch Melbourne whizz by. Sometimes I am reminded of my associations with these buildings, sometimes I'm just admiring the architecture (the top photo shows the delightfully Art Deco Hawthorn Football Club stand), sometimes I'm thinking about nights spent seeing bands in nearby venues, other times I am moved to find out more such as with the with the old Australian Knitting Mill building in Richmond.
The Australian Knitting Mill building dates to 1910 (although there had been a smaller mill on the site since 1899) and was well known for its production of bathing suits and woollen underwear. It was further expanded in 1912 and became the sole supplier of uniforms during World War I. It's hard to see in the photographs but the buildings were adorned with kookaburras and sheep representing The Golden Fleece in the 1920s. It has been as a recording studio, film set, gallery and so much more over the years. The place must be positively teeming with ghosts!
Today the complex of buildings is protected as part of a Heritage Overlay area. Clothes are still made there, buses and train carriages fitted out with fabric seats and there are any number of creative people working in the huge open plan space used as a drop-in centre and co-working space.
What do you see when you watch the world pass by? Do you ever wonder about all that has gone on in buildings beyond living memory (or is that just me?).

Monday, March 17, 2014


Moomin comic book cover by Tove Jansson

Are you a Tove Jansson fan? Perhaps you have fond childhood memories of her Moomin books or maybe you know her memoirs and fiction? I must admit to being a latecomer to Jansson's work and then only through her remarkable Moomin books. While I vaguely remember them from childhood it was not until I started reading them to my children last year that I fell under her spell. How could I not when she wrote passages such as this:

Now the dictionary was curling up more and more. The pages began to look like withered leaves, and between them the Outlandish Words came out and began crawling around on the floor.
'Goodness gracious me,' said Moomintroll.
Finn Family Moomintroll (1948)
Goodness gracious indeed! Crawling words aside, there is something very comforting about the philosophical, nature-loving world in Moominvalley where seasons are embraced for their difference and for the way they mark the passing of time:

The quiet transition from autumn to winter is not a bad time at all. It's a time for protecting and securing things and for making sure you've got in as many supplies as you can. It's nice to gather together everything you possess as close to you as possible, to store up your warmth and your thoughts and burrow yourself into a deep hole inside, a core of safety where you can defend what is important and precious and your very own. Then the cold and the storms and the darkness can do their worst.

Moominvalley In November (1971)

This year would have been Tove's 100th birthday so celebrations are in full swing around the globe to honour her work not only as a writer but as a artist. If I was anywhere near Finland I'd be hot-footing it to this remarkable retrospective exhibition at the Finnish National Gallery in Helsinki (thanks for the tip Tuula) which includes her surrealist and modernist paintings from the 1930 -1950s, her graphic work during the 1940s and her later paintings which move towards abstraction. If you can't make it there the website is certainly worth a look and if you'd like more information on Tove Jansson related events nearer to you you may find some on the Tove100 website.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I'm all ears...

One of the unexpected delights of commuting to work by train has been the rediscovery of my ears. Poor neglected ears and poor overworked eyes - looking, reading, searching, appraising - only resting when it's too dark to see.
When I was growing up there was always a radio on in the kitchen usually some sort of talkback program or maybe the horse-races or the football. Sometimes the television would be on too and I still find that constant hum of voices in a house very comforting.  As a teenager, radio was all about music and in 1980s Melbourne that meant listening to 3XY, THE rock station. As I got older I discovered the weird and wonderful world of independent radio and became an ardent follower of Melbourne's oldest independent radio station 3RRR. For a country kid it was mind blowing. My favourite programs were Film Buffs Forecast and a late night nostalgia show by 'Cherry and Mario' who among other things would do radio plays based on Hollywood musicals. They would play the soundtrack narrating the story between tracks and this embryonic performing arts historian was in heaven.

Not much has changed it seems because I am again in the thrall of radio, this time through the magic of the downloadable podcast. Although it took me a while to wade my way through the thousands of podcasts out there I'm finally finding my way now and eagerly wait for new instalments of my favourite shows. There are amazing things being done on American public radio (along the 'if you like us donate' model) and if you haven't already discovered them I can really recommend the following:

If you like the idea of fiction/ radio plays
The Truth - Movies For Your Ears
Welcome To Night Vale

If you're fascinated by history and culture
The Memory Palace
99% Invisible (architecture and design)

Each and every one is beautifully produced, truly a feast for the ears. They all run for about 20-30 minutes which is perfect for a weekday commute when you can plug yourself in, close your eyes and give yourself over to another world for a few stolen minutes.

If you have a favourite podcast I'd love to hear about it.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

You have killer taste...

THE GAP by Ira Glass from frohlocke on Vimeo.

Ira Glass is a wise man. You may know him from his work on the American public radio program, This American Life, where you can hear a wonderful mix of reportage, storytelling and other unexpected audio wonders. Here, in just over 2 minutes, Glass with the help of artist Daniel Sax, gives you all the encouragement you need to persevere with your creative ambition.

You can thank me (and Ira) later...

Linking with Meet Me At Mikes because Pip is right. It's important to acknowledge those who inspire us.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Taking Stock... February 2014


Inspired by Meet Me At Mikes (slightly edited version!)

Making :  a little crocheted cat from the book Super Scary Crochet by Nicki Trench
Cooking : Maple Olive Oil Banana Bread as seen on Shutterbean
Reading: 'Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and The Greatest Treasure Hunt In History' by Robert M. Edsal with Bret Witter
Wanting: to see the film of the above
Looking: out a lot of train windows
Listening: to Welcome To Night Vale podcasts
Enjoying: the new season of Sherlock on DVD
Liking: Instagram
Wondering: what to read next
Loving: the cooler weather
Watching: Star Wars and Indiana Jones with the kids
Hoping: those recently affected by the Victorian bushfires are finding their feet again
Marvelling: at the creativity behind White Night Melbourne
Needing: a few early nights to get me ready for a busy two weeks at work
Smelling: lemon-scented eucalypts
Wearing: uncharacteristically flat shoes
Following: Kaz Cooke's adventures at the State Library of Victoria on Fellow Frockery
Noticing: so much more now that I have to walk so much more
Getting: very good at using a myki card
Bookmarking: the Art Loss Register and Interpol for amazing stories of lost and found treasures
Disliking: the direction I see my country heading in
Snacking: on apricots and almonds
Coveting: nothing
Wishing: for 'a room of one's own'
Helping: the kids back into their busy school term routines
Hearing: good things about the 100 Story Building and their work with maginalised children and young people in Melbourne.

Phew! How about you? Have you been taking stock too?

Monday, February 10, 2014

New year, new eyes...

This year has started off very differently from previous ones. For the first time in over 20 years I find myself without a car (it seems I have a problem distinguishing between 60, 70 and 80 km zones when I'm driving). The last time I went on a train coincided with the purchase of my first car in 1991 so it was with some trepidation that I took the first of many trains I will have to take to work over the next 12 weeks. As I've mentioned before I am very claustrophobic and the thought of peak hour trains gave me more than a few sleepless nights over the Christmas break but I must say that so far I have been pleasantly surprised.

Here's some things I've learnt already walking and taking public transport:
  • I have a bus at the end of my street that will take me everywhere I regularly go in my local area including the train station.
  • The buses go every 15 minutes.
  • There is no advertising on my local buses (and very little graffiti). It is air-conditioned and very fast.
  • Only one of the milk-bars within walking distance of my house sells bread.
  • The trains I have caught have all been on time, cool (even during the heatwave), clean and quiet.
  • The trains are nowhere near as crowded as I thought they would be unless I catch one at the height of peak hour.
  • It takes me almost half the time to get into the city compared to driving.
Not only that but I now have an extra hour to myself everyday to read, listen to podcasts and see suburbs I've lived in for many years from a totally different angle (but more about that in other posts).

I do realise that once the train is late/breaks down/ traps me in a tunnel I may change my tune but for now I'm happy to accentuate the positive.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Gingerbread 2.0

Gingerbread Granola by A Beautiful Mess

Next time I'm going to make these instead!

The Gingerbread House as metaphor for life...

Last week I made a Gingerbread House. I'm not sure what possessed me. I've never made one before but I was planning a pre-Christmas lunch for my sister and her family at which there would be five children so it seemed like a good idea at the time. Have you ever made a Gingerbread House? It's not for the faint-hearted or the time-poor. Unfortunately, the result was somewhat less than perfect as you can see. Walls cracked, the roof collapsed (more than once) and we used twice as much icing as recommended in a vain attempt to salvage what we could.

The thing is, I approached the task of making a Gingerbread House as I approach most things in life in life - full of enthusiasm, optimistic (often unrealistic) about timeframes and flying by the seat of my pants. I didn't read the construction instructions properly and I tried to do everything from making the gingerbread, to decorating and constructing the house all in one evening.
On the up side, it did remind me of a few of my better qualities too. I had a lot of fun once I realised perfection was not the aim. Henry and I laughed hysterically as I scrambled to catch pieces as they fell while still holding other pieces that had not yet set and I didn't give up even after my roofing disaster, in fact, I worked my way around the problem by constructing some roofing beams using bamboo skewers and overlaying them with textured ice-cream wafers I had in the cupboard.

It may be the ugliest Gingerbread House ever created but I still think that the time spent making it was time well spent. If you'd like to give it a go there are some good instructions here and here and if you'd prefer to stick with Gingerbread Men (so much easier to control!) here's my Gingerbread recipe.

Gingerbread Biscuits
(Makes lots!)


3 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup plain flour
6 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 cup dark muscovado sugar
185 grams butter, chopped and softened
1/2 molasses (or golden syrup)
2 eggs, lightly beaten


1.  Sift dry ingredients into a bowl with the sugar.
2.  Add butter and mix with an electric  hand mixer until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
3.  Whisk molasses and eggs together and mix until combined.
4.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. If the mixture is too sticky to work with add a little more flour but not too much. The dough should still be moist and should come together in a nice smooth shiny ball.
5.  Cut dough in half, press into a flat disc, wrap in cling-wrap and place in refrigerator for 30 mins.
6.  Remove from refrigerator and pre-heat your oven to 180C/ 375F.
7.  Roll dough out between two pieces of baking paper until the dough is roughly 5mm in thickness.
8.  Use your favourite cutters to make shapes and lay them on prepared baking trays and return to the fridge for 15mins.
9.  Bake for 10-15 minutes depending on the size of your shapes, or until firm.
10. Cool completely before decorating with royal icing, silver cachous etc.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Birthday season...

October marks the beginning of festivities in our house with two birthdays in October followed by two in November. Birthday celebrations are of a very elastic in nature around here and can last from one day to a week- throw in Halloween and before you know it it's Christmas.

Last weekend it was my turn and as always I was showered with lovely thoughtful gifts starting with this gorgeous orchid. Next came the books, oh so many books...

As you can see I have a fondness for Wodehouse. The other two books I've been coveting for some time. The glorious big magic book is full of wonderful illustrations and photographs of magicians from the 1400s to the 1950s. I'm not sure I've ever shared my obsession with early twentieth century magic with you before but that's a post for another day!

The other book is a cookbook from the famous Parisian confectioners, A La Mere de Famille. As an Australian, the thought that this corner store has been in continuous operation since 1761, well before white Australia is almost unfathomable. The recipes throughout the book reflect the different eras covering everything from cakes and biscuits to chocolates, candied fruits, syrups and ice-creams. Most intriguing of all, however, are the stories surrounding how the shop has found new owners often by serendipity rather than through family connection. The right people just seem to appear at the right time including a number of people who were initially enamoured customers.

So as much as I would have liked to just blink my eyes and find myself in Paris, birthday lunch was a little closer to home at our closest Italian equivalent, Brunetti's where we had homemade gnocchi with tomato, basil and buffalo mozzarella, pizza and salade caprese. We also took home one of their profiteroles towers filled with zabaglione cream for afternoon tea and lounged around reading books and dozing for the rest of the day. Bliss!